Raising Readers: Early Reading Tips

Aug 5, 2013

Did I say I was going to put up the first post in this series last week? I meant this week, of course. (Last week, if you couldn’t already tell by the lack of posting, was sabotaged by a host of other activities.)

As I narrowed down all of the possibilities for this first post, I couldn’t stop thinking about Aaron and the stage of reading he is at right now.

As you know, I started teaching Aaron how to read a year and a half ago, using the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We’ll save the discussion of whether or not it is a good idea to teach a 3.5-year-old how to read for a later post.

The point it, while we were using the book, it was easy to know what to do next: as long as lesson 55 followed lesson 54, and lesson 56 followed lesson 55, I was pretty confident we were moving in the right direction.

But then, we closed the book after lesson 100, and I thought, Now what? We had come so far, and so I wanted to continue with daily reading, but I had very few ideas for what I should have him read. The book gave a few suggestions for additional books, but I still felt pretty lost.

It was time to employ some good ol’ trial and error (lucky first-borns!).

Now, every child is different, and so what worked for Aaron may or may not work for your child. Like I said in the introductory post, my experience is limited to my own flesh and blood. Aaron did not initiate reading on his own, but he was a quick (and usually willing) student. The more he reads, the more I see him reading on his own, without any encouragement from me.

Here are a few of the things I’ve done that, so far, I’ve found most helpful:

Set aside a specific time to read each day. Aaron is not a self-motivated reader, but he is a big fan of structure and schedules. When we read sporadically, on-again-off-again, he fights it. But if we read at 7:30 every morning, he doesn’t even question it, and it is a much more enjoyable experience for both of us.

Choose books that are just above reading level. I look for books that will have about 3-6 words per page that he doesn’t know (or roughly 5-10%). That way, he is always encountering new vocabulary, as well as new reading skills, but he doesn’t feel bogged down with new words.

Don’t make a big deal about new words. Sometimes I have him sound out a new word. Sometimes I give him a little prompt (what does “c-h” say?). But most of the time, I just tell him the word. So much of good reading comes from comprehension and maintaining a reasonable pace (or so I’ve concluded), so unless I feel it’s really important or a word he really should be able to figure out, I just tell him what it is, and we go merrily on our way with full comprehension still intact. This cuts back on a lot of frustration, and amazingly, he usually knows the word the next time we come to it.

Read the story to him first. I have found that if I read the book to Aaron once first, his attempt is much smoother and fluid with far fewer frustrating episodes. There’s no way he can memorize the words by hearing it just one time, but having the story in his head helps him make more reasonable deductions with words he doesn’t know and helps him read more seamlessly.

Let him read something easy. This has been a huge confidence booster for Aaron. Recently, I let him read Sam and the Firefly. It was quite a bit easier than the other things he’s been reading lately. He was able to read it so quickly with almost no hesitations are breaks. It made him feel like such a good and experienced reader, and it also showed me how far he has come.

Demonstrate inflection and delivery. Part of reading is being able to interpret the tone and style of the words. “'Oh, wow...'” she said as she gazed up at the Eiffel Tower” would be spoken differently than “’Oh wow,’” he moaned when he saw his little sister’s mess.” Sometimes early reading can become so stilted and monotone, so I find it helpful to occasionally stop him and demonstrate what it’s supposed to sound like, and then he tries it again with a little more emotion. He has already improved significantly in this area. (Of course, spending lots of time reading to your child is really the best and most effective way to teach good delivery.)

Give lots of praise and encouragement. A few days ago, we were at the library, and the librarian gave the boys pins that read, “Super reader!” Aaron looked at it, read it, and said, “Mom, I really am a super reader.” I don’t want him to get cocky, but I do want him to be filled with that innocent confidence that will encourage him to try new things.

Now that I’ve shared a few of my tips, I hope you’ll add to this list by commenting with some of your own suggestions for encouraging and guiding early readers. Next week (or let’s be realistic, the week after), I’ll share a few of our favorite easy readers/early chapter books!


  1. Awesome advice.
    Another post worth saving.

    Question: What age did your sons really start reading? My daughter loves book and reads to herself a lot but doesn't really let me read to her yet. I don't want to push her though.

    Love your tip about setting time aside for reading. Brilliant!

  2. My daughter just turned 4 and we're in the early lessons of Reading Eggs and the first BOB Books set, so I'm not sure I have anything to add to your great suggestions for encouraging young readers! :) I do make sure to stop before she gets tired of it, though, so that her last impression of the session was "fun."

  3. I think it is AWESOME that you taught your three-year-old to read. Even if he can't read everything, he's already developing a love for books and understanding the concepts. You're giving him a head start. :)

  4. Great tip. Featuring it on iGameMom - thanks for sharing at Mom's Library. http://igamemom.com/2013/08/14/how-to-encourage-kids-to-read-more-moms-library/

  5. Featured you on Mom's Library this week!

  6. Love all the tips here (incidentally we also used the "100 lessons" book for reading) and i would like to add to read aloud everyday. I also occasionally tell DD what I am reading so she realizes that even adults read for knowledge and pleasure. On some difficult texts, we co-read-- DD reads until she gets to the difficult parts (either comprehension or words) and then we stop and think about it.
    Lovely post! Thanks for sharing!
    -Reshama @ StackingBooks.com


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